Susan Conant published her first dog mystery, A New Leash on Life, in 1990, a year before authors Sue Henry and Mary Willis Walker published crime novels depicting female dog training sleuths and working dogs. Although some critics identify Conant as initiating the dog mystery genre, she and her writing peers had prior literary canine-related mystery inspirations, including Sherlock Holmes. In 1983 Barbara Moore wrote The Doberman Wore Black, which featured a veterinarian sleuth assisted by a dog. Nonetheless, Conant established herself as a leading author in that subgenre.
Scholars have generally ignored Conant’s contributions to the mystery genre. Although some critics have found fault with Conant’s writing style, particularly her plotting and development of mystery elements, others have praised her dialogue, depictions of settings, and characterizations, which became more complex and admirable as her writing matured. Her fan base assured Conant of consistent commercial success, and she continued to produce new dog mysteries annually. In 2005, Conant’s reputation as an author who delivered satisfying stories to readers interested in dog mysteries resulted in her introducing a series for cat enthusiasts. Her success also enabled her to pursue writing mysteries with her daughter, addressing a lifestyle and cultural interests unlike those readers experienced in her animal-themed novels.
Conant has striven to introduce readers to the dog world and educate them regarding topics and issues that might otherwise be unfamiliar to them. The Dog Writers’ Association of America has rewarded Conant’s works with its Maxwell Award several times.